They are like trees planted by streams of living water,
Bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
Everything they do shall prosper.
The trunk of a stately maple tree stands outside the back patio door of the cottage. The rooted trunk supports branches that dip and sway in the wind and rain. Morning sunlight spreads across one side of the charcoal gray trunk lighting on the wrinkles and crevices and textures on the bark.
Trees instruct us. They show us how to live in God and let God live in us. Left to my own devices, I jump on the train of misguided and oft repeated self - improvement programs. What can I do to pray more, to increase my discipline, to do more, to be better, to offer myself more completely, to make a difference. My striving and efforts begin and end with me. Living in God begins with God.
We live our life in response, response to what God initiates, God’s invitation, God’s grace, God’s gift of breath and life for another day.
Trees struggle to thrive just as we do. We have three crab apple trees that were sliced by a weed whacker when their trunks were young and vulnerable. They have been slow to grow, cautious to blossom in the spring, quick to show signs of drought or disease. Trees, like us, heal from trauma by connecting to their source, their roots.
Trees demonstrate how to live in God. Rooted in the earth, their flourishing is dependent upon what the earth beneath them, the sun above them and the air around them provide. Their size, shape, branches, blossoms, flowers, and leaves, rely upon creation’s provisions. We saw it this summer as draught conditions caused curled brown leaves. Thirsty plants without root systems didn’t make it. Trees take nutrients in the soil to grow root systems into the earth that produce thick trunks to sustain their height, the spread of their branches for birds to nest in, their ability to offer shade, and produce fruit.
Trees receive to thrive. They bend with the battering winds of a storm but recover by staying rooted in their plot of earth. They receive. We want to win competitions for God. Climb to higher heights. Achieve more. Trees remind us that we thrive and grow in response to the initiative of God’s provision and with the help and generosity of a God who first made earth and seed, who gave them life, and gives us life.
Here in Concord, we are surrounded by trees, all kinds of them. Sometime this week, stop and sit next to a tree. Or notice one you may have missed outside your window and give yourself time to look at it, to take it in. Just as Jesus noticed the lilies of the field, notice trees. They do not “toil or strain” and yet the richest king in all his glory was not arrayed with such calm and dignified purpose.